The Jefferson County Election Commission decided Wednesday to present to Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter the names of 65 voters who may have voted illegally in the June 12 Democratic preferential primary runoff elections. It'll be up to Hunter to investigate and determine if any charges will be filed.
The Jefferson County Election Commission decided Wednesday to present to Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter the names of 65 voters who may have voted illegally in the June 12 Democratic preferential primary runoff elections. It’ll be up to Hunter to investigate and determine if any charges will be filed.
Initial checks of election records indicate the individuals apparently voted illegally in the all-Democratic runoff after marking Republican ballots in the May 22 primary.
It’s possible that the number of names might grow.
According to Commission Chairman Trey Ashcraft, County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson and her staff will be scrutinizing a dozen more possible crossover voters identified by Democratic candidate Dorothy Hall of Sheridan, who lost a runoff bid for the state House of Representatives’ District 10 nomination. Ashcraft said Johnson will deliver to Hunter the names of any of the questioned voters who aren’t initially cleared of wrong-doings.
Johnson did not attend the commission meeting, but said afterward that she would inform The Commercial of any developments from her office.
Meanwhile, commissioners and Election Coordinator Will Fox are planning to start interviewing election workers as soon as “early next week” to determine what might have occurred in leading to the crossover irregularities, 16 of which occurred at the Watson Chapel Baptist Church polling place alone. Commission Secretary Stu Soffer noted that the poll judge there had not participated in recent commission-offered training.
Soffer said the aim of the quest will be to identify what poll workers were responsible for keeping election books in which crossover votes were allowed and then determining if judges can identify those workers who recorded the unlawful balloting.
In response to questioning from Ted Davis, Pine Bluff Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.’s administrative assistant, Ashcraft said the commission will disclose all findings to the public.
“We’re in a fact-finding stage,” Ashcraft said. “This is crucial to us regaining any trust we might have lost.”
“I don’t want us to drag this (process) out,” Soffer said.
“I want to deal with all the election judges directly and as soon as possible,” said Ashcraft. “I don’t want this to appear in the paper and they read it and think that we’re on a witch hunt against them.”
Soffer said commissioners have been and will continue to be cautious in their movement on the matter. He said panelists are aware that some cases of what appears to be crossover voting may actually be the result of “poll worker incompetence” or “honest mistakes by polling officials.”
The commission also discussed the September school elections.
The Dollarway School District was recently taken over by the state with its board dissolved, so it will have no board elections but will have a vote on maintaining its current millage.
All board positions in the Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel and White Hall districts will be up for re-election. July 10 is the school board filing deadline and ballot positions will be drawn July 13.
Davis told the commission that he would like to see one polling place for each zone in the Pine Bluff district elections.